Bambara groundnut

Bambara Groundnut, Uses And Health Importance

Bambara groundnut is a legume crop that is widely cultivated in most African countries. Legumes such as groundnuts, Bambara nut, and many others have received much attention for utilisation in a variety of food systems due to their wide distribution throughout the world and potentially high protein content. They have been the basic source of food security in several developing countries and legumes can be exploited for both human and animal use.


Bambara groundnut (Vigna Subterranean), is an indigenous African grain. Bambara groundnut is one of the lesser-known utilised legumes that can be used in various food formulations such as bakery products and other flour confectionaries because of its high protein content.

It is a rich source of energy and carbohydrates, and is relatively low in fat among the legumes widely cultivated in Nigeria. Bambara groundnut is relatively underutilised, the nut has not been adequately exploited as a human food because of constraints such as it is hard to cook, presence of anti-nutrients and poor dehulling and milling characteristics.

According to, the Bambara groundnut is the most important legume after peanut and cowpea in Africa. It has a lot of production advantages in that it can grow on poor soils with little rainfall and can produce substantial yield under better conditions.

Bambara groundnuts are naturally superior to many legumes and are the preferred crop for many local people. It is rich in protein and its seeds are valued for their nutritional and economic importance. Its protein is reported to be higher in essential amino acid, and methionine than other common pulses such as cowpea and pigeon pea.

In Nigeria, freshly harvested pods or seeds are cooked, shelled, and eaten as snacks or milled into nutritious flour used for the preparation of “Moin-Moin” and “Okpa” which are very popular among the Igbo tribe of the eastern part of Nigeria.  However, it cannot be kept for more than 24 hours.


1. The seeds are used for food and beverages because of their high protein content, and for their benefit to the digestive system. The entire plant is known for soil improvement because of nitrogen fixation. In west Africa, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United (FAO), the nuts are eaten as a snack, roasted, salted, processed into cake or as a meal, and boiled like other beans.

2. In south-eastern Nigeria, particularly in Enugu, the dried Bambara beans are grounded into fine flour powder, then mixed with palm oil, water, and pumpkin leaves, and then put into a banana leaf wrap, to make “Okpa”, a common breakfast in Enugu, Nsukka, and Nwgwo in Nigeria.

3. During the running season in many parts of central Nigeria like Jos, the fresh Bambara nut seeds are cooked with their shell still on them. The beans are then eaten as a snack just like boiled groundnut. Bambara nut plays an important role and is widely utilised in traditional dishes in several African countries such as Cote d’Ivoire.

4. Bambara nut seeds are consumed at different developmental stages, immature or fully ripe. The immature groundnut is also known as green maize. The ripe seeds are also roasted, broken into pieces, boiled, crushed, and eaten as a relish in Zimbabwe, a peanut-like snack is also produced through roasting of Bambara groundnut and can also be dried and stored for later use.


ANIMAL NUTRITION PERSPECTIVE: With the increase in fixed costs in the animal industry, the use of plant protein sources has become more necessary. Legumes such as Bambara groundnut, soybean, and groundnut cake have been utilised as plant protein which has been used as animal feed.

The leaves are also suitable for animal grazing because they are rich in nitrogen and phosphorous. In weaner pig diets, up to 10% Bambara groundnut inclusion level was found economical for producing affordable and cheaper pork.

Bambara nut varieties provide up to 25% protein when compared to other legumes. This protein level can be valuable in improving an animal feed diet with low protein content. Bambara groundnut by-products such as the Bambara groundnut sieve, which is a result of processing Bambara nut flour for human consumption use, is used in animal feed.

The current study aims to characterise the Bambara groundnut as an alternative animal feed source by assessing its nutritional composition and value.

HUMAN NUTRITION PERSPECTIVE ON BAMBARA GROUNDNUT: According to, Bambara groundnuts possess significant nutrients and provides an important source of crude protein (up to 24%). Carbohydrate (up to 63.5%) and fat (up to 6.5%). It also contains essential amino acids. Bambara groundnut has poor phosphorous and magnesium content and fair calcium content. A recent study on the evaluation of the nutritional quality of Bambara groundnut concluded that it is most suitable for infant diets.


Anti-nutritional factors are substances that are generated in natural feed ingredients by the normal metabolism of plant species and the interaction of different mechanisms. These factors hinder the optimal utilisation of the food by inhibiting protein digestibility thus forming irreversible complexes with protein which reduces the bioavailability of amino acids.

The anti-nutritional factors are not intrinsic properties of a compound, and their activity depends upon the digestive process of the animal which is fed on ANF-rich feed. The utilisation of leaves, pods and edible twigs of shrubs and trees as animal feed is limited by the presence of ANFs.

Despite the nutritional benefits of Bambara groundnut, several studies have identified anti-nutritional factors such as trypsin inhibitor phytate and tannins.

Low levels of trypsin inhibitors were identified in Bambara groundnut which was reported to be higher in pigeon pea. A high level of phytate has been reported in Bambara groundnut and is associated with reducing canvalibility. A correlation between the seed colour and the level of tannins present in the Bambara seed has been found.

The cream-coloured seed had the lowest tannin level, while brown and red contained higher levels respectively. However, in a separate study, it was concluded that a low level of tannin has a beneficial effect on human and animal nutrition. This suggests that the Bambara groundnut is a major benefit to both human and animal diets.


1. The antioxidant properties of the fatty acids in the Bambara groundnut can suppress the production of carcinogenic substances in the stomach, preventing damage to the mucus lining of the stomach.

  • Antimicrobial action: Bambara groundnut milk is rich in probiotics
  • Is an essential element in lowering cholesterol lysine
  • Important for proper growth and plays a very important role in the manufacturing of carnitine.

2. Maintains healthy bone lysine and also aids in the absorption of calcium for the proper growth of the bones in the body. There are multi-health benefits of Bambara protein. The Bambara groundnut flour is very high in protein. This essential nutrient is used to treat a lot of disorders and diseases as a traditional treatment.

3. Fights kwashiorkor. Bambara groundnut plays an important role in providing protein nourishment for children in the rural areas of many continents. This helps those children to defeat kwashiorkor.

4. It contains little fat, 6%, is highly caloric (387kcal) and is rich in vitamins and minerals. Also, it is very balanced in protein, contains 63% carbohydrate and 18% oil and fatty acids. These values are considered sufficient to make this legume a complete food.


It plays an important role in the diet and culture of populations. The leaves which are rich in protein and are used for livestock feed. The seeds are given to pigs and poultry while leafy stems are used as livestock fodder.

The nut can be eaten fresh, dried, or cooked. The ripe seeds are boiled and eaten as a dry vegetable or mixed with corn or plantain. The seeds are also ground in flour, sometimes after roasting, to make porridge in Cameroon. This flour is added to cereals for the manufacture of a “Baby Lion” porridge.

Their seeds are eaten raw, boiled, roasted, and are used for making cakes, koki, dough, couscous soups, porridge, and as a snack. They are also added to corn flour in traditional food. The immature pods can be picked green and used as green vegetables.

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